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First Fleet piano flown to UK for repairs

March 27, 2019

A historic piano that was the first keyboard instrument on Australian soil has been returned to the UK for critical restoration work.

The square piano was taken to Sydney on board the HMS Sirius as part of the 11 First Fleet ships which sailed from England in 1787 and made landfall in Australia in January 1788.

It was made by London piano-maker Frederick Beck and brought to Australia on the fleet's eight-month journey from Portsmouth. It was eventually donated to Perth's Edith Cowan University.

The return journey to the UK was much shorter than eight months, taking just 21 hours on an Emirates jet from Perth to London earlier this month.

"The restoration of the First Fleet Piano has firmly placed Edith Cowan University at the centre of worldwide efforts to create research and education programs on how to conserve and restore prized historical instruments," the university's vice-chancellor Professor Steve Chapman said.

The First Fleet Piano was accompanied by another five pianos, three of which were produced in the 18th and 19th centuries, the airline said.

The instruments were packed in specially crafted insulated flight cases with sensors to track temperature and movement and loaded in the cargo hold of Emirates' A380 aircraft from Perth to Dubai.

Once in Dubai, the cases were transferred to a connecting flight to London, which landed on March 15.

The First Fleet Piano will undergo extensive restoration work before returning to Australia.

 

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